Are tulas and enso linked in Australia?

Peter Veth*, Peter Hiscock, Alan Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    52 Citations (Scopus)


    The distinctive tool called 'tula' is an endemic adaptation, which was adopted by Aboriginal people across central and western Australia, encompassing some two-thirds of the continent. The tula is a hafted tool used for working hardwoods as well as other tasks including butchery and plant-processing. The geographic spread of tulas appears to have been rapid and no antecedent form has been identified. The sudden appearance of tulas was coincident with the onset of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions. While we do not yet have the data to establish an unequivocal causal link, in this paper we hypothesise that the appearance of this new and specialised tool at c.3700 BP was very likely a human response to the intensification of ENSO. This intensification resulted in increased aridity and climatic variability lasting almost 2000 years. We posit that this technological adaptation, an element of a risk minimisation toolkit, was part of a wider economic and social strategy adopted by Aboriginal people to cope with increasing climatic uncertainty. This possibility has implications for the diversity of innovation processes operating in Australia during the Holocene, which is further explored in this paper with concluding suggestions for future research. We offer this discussion as a platform for these future, and what we believe, are very necessary critical studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7-14
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralian Archaeology
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


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